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Ellinwood city officials studying utility rate report
Across-the-board rate hikes likely for citizens
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There is never a good time to have to increase costs to the citizens of Ellinwood
Chris Komarek

ELLINWOOD — For the last few months, Ellinwood city officials have been looking at raising utility rates in the community. To that end, two special meetings were scheduled as study sessions at the end of January, to take an across-the-board look at rates, with the presumption that bumps in monthly rates will be implemented. A study session to look at water and sewer rates was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 23, while another session has been scheduled for Jan. 30 at 4 p.m.

"There is never a good time to have to increase costs to the citizens of Ellinwood,” noted Ellinwood City Administrator Chris Komarek, in his introductory comments to the council on Tuesday. “As a result, that exact thought in the past of ‘now is not a good time’ has put us behind on where we need to be currently. There were thoughts of making changes several times in recent years, but events such as COVID-19, high natural gas prices, or something else always seemed to make changes unacceptable at the time.

“We must make a large leap forward and it’s going to be noticeable to the community.”

Ellinwood City Council
Ellinwood City Administrator Chris Komarek discusses data assembled into a 25-page report to the Ellinwood City Council for its study session on water and sewer rates. Beth Warren, from Kansas Municipal Utilities in Wichita, discusses variables affecting water rates in communities with the Ellinwood City Council Tuesday. - photo by Michael Gilmore

Tuesday session

For Tuesday, Komarek asked Beth Warren, Wichita, representing Kansas Municipal Utilities, to attend the study session to offer her data, recommendations and insights into revising Ellinwood’s water rate structure.

Warren brings 20 years’ experience to rate analysis for water and wastewater utilities and has developed a methodology for evaluating a utility system’s rate charges. She has completed more than 175 utility rate reviews for more than 100 entities in the state, as well as provided technical assistance on 100 other reviews.

In the two-hour session, Warren guided Komarek and the council through 25 pages of data and account balances, collected over the past several years in Ellinwood.

Her recommendations, based on a 5,000 gallon per month usage standard, included a small initial bump that would be followed by a 3% increase each year for a five-year period to help maintain a constant financial footing. Komarek noted that a $6 increase balancing the base rate and the cost adjustment would help keep a possible rate under $30 per month.

Ellinwood’s rate history Solid waste: Komarek noted that the council recently increased solid waste rates by $6 to a total of $18 per month fee for residents. Komarek noted that the city ended 2023 down $25,000 due to unexpected truck maintenance issues and the need to purchase some new large dumpsters and cans. The increase would be helpful in recouping losses as well as a means to set back funds for a new truck.

Water: The last increase in Ellinwood’s water rates was in 2013, to $12 per month base including the first 1,000 gallons used, with an additional $2.50 for each extra 1,000 used.

The revenue generated at an average of $301,666 has maintained operations but not allowed funds to be put into reserves, Komarek said.

Sewer: The last increase in sewer rates was made in 1999. Ellinwood currently charges $3.75 per month as a base rate not including usage. An additional $2.80 for each 1,000 gallons is billed after that, Komarek said.

Future discussions

No council action was made regarding rate decisions at the Tuesday meeting, reserved for a future council meeting.

For its next session, Jan. 30, Komarek has invited Brooke Carroll from the Kansas Power Pool to provide input into the proposed electric discussion.